Savvy birders know that the coldest months can be some of the hottest times for backyard birding. You can attract birds to your yard by providing them with food, water and shelter. But what if you can’t do that and still want to birdwatch?
Consider taking a hike in the forest preserves. Watch for areas of open water, where waterfowl can be seen diving into frigid water in search of small fish and plant material. You may even spot an American bald eagle hunting for fish on open water.
Short-eared owl. Photo by Minette Layne/CC BY-NC 2.0
Thickets and conifers are also good places to see birds. These areas create their own micro-climates that protect birds from wind and cold. Owls, dark-eyed juncos and northern cardinals particularly like conifers. St. James Farm, Herrick Lake and Pratt’s Wayne Woods have stands of conifers that provide good roosting spots for these birds.
Nuthatch on suet
Overwintering birds mostly feed on seeds and berries in winter, except for raptors and owls, which hunt voles and mice. When the temperatures drop and water freezes, it’s hard for birds to find water during the cold winter months. Putting a heated bird bath in your yard filled with fresh water can give birds a boost, but so can breaking up ice in existing bird baths and keeping them full.